© 1997 KSS
I keep thinking that for a country capable of producing some of the best role-playing games on the market, they really don't have the same knack when it comes to fantasy anime. Sure, there are notable epics like Record of Lodoss War and The Vision of Escaflowne, but aside from those, most serious fantasy anime are either incomplete or just plain mediocre. So when I rented Dragoon I kept my expectations in check especially because of the fact that it's a paltry three episodes long.
Dragoon begins with a flashforward (as opposed to a flashback) depicting a giant mechanical dragon on a rampage destroying villages, people, etc. It seems this dragon (or "Dragoon", I should say) is a penultimate weapon of some kind used by the Empire (and, of course, empires are never on the side of good). But for the Empire to use this weapon they require a young girl who possesses some power to control it.
Flashback to the present where we meet up with young Sadie, a swordsman-in-training who is in the countryside practicing his swordsmanship. Must to his surprise, he discovers the naked body of a young woman in the snow. Being a gentleman he takes her back to his cabin where she revives. She reveals that her name is Miu, but can remember nothing beyond that. It turns out she used to belong to the Empire and they want her back. Sadie takes Miu back to his village where she meets his family. However, the Empire comes looking for her and Sadie ends up confronting several soldiers on Miu's behalf and barely survives. Miu decides she doesn't want anyone to get hurt over her and decides to leave. But Sadie vows to help her recover her past and chooses to accompany her on her quest.
Dragoon really doesn't push any boundaries of the genre and uses various stock fantasy elements without a whole lot of creativity (young swordsman with legendary father; mysterious girl with amnesia; giant empire hell-bent on crushing anything in their way). The characters themselves aren't a whole lot better, and the villains are so derivative they don't even merit mention. I'll admit some of the characters were engaging, particularly Sadie's younger sister, Millie. Bubb and Lilith also looked like they could be a hoot, but since they show up only in the third episode, there's about zilch in the way of character development for them.
And like almost every other fantasy anime, Dragoon suffers the unfortunate curse of being unfinished. The beginnings of an epic quest are presented, but neither the middle nor a conclusion. Memo to fantasy producers: if you're going to produce a fantasy anime, give it a danged ending!
Production qualities are decent, if unspectacular. While the art was good, the animation could have been a lot better. Battle scenes in particular tended to feature an overuse of still-shots and speed-lines which detracted from them as a whole.
If you're a die-hard fantasy fan (like me), you'll probably get some enjoyment out of Dragoon. Unfortunately, it's a little too stale to recommend anything more than that.
The Verdict: * * * (average)
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